Athletics News

Shaun Pickering, gentle and generous giant of the athletics world, dies aged 61

Shaun Pickering, gentle and generous giant of the athletics world, dies aged 61

Olympic shot putter devoted much of his life to keeping the spirit of his parents, Jean and Ron, alive via the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund

As an athlete Shaun Pickering was an Olympian, Commonwealth Games shot put medallist and multiple Welsh champion in the shot, discus and javelin. Yet the throws giant, who died on Thursday aged 61, will also be remembered for his passionate and energetic efforts to boost the health of British athletics, most notably the nation’s up-and-coming young athletes through the charity that was named after his father.

Shaun was the son of Jean and Ron Pickering and you will struggle to find a family that has had more of a positive impact on the sport in Britain. An Olympic sprint relay medallist in 1952 and European long jump champion in 1954, Jean was a much-loved figure in the sport and died in 2013. As an athletics coach, teacher and BBC commentator, Ron was one of the best-known characters in the sport before he died unexpectedly in 1991 aged just 60. Now, the sport is mourning the loss of another member of the family with Shaun surviving just one year longer than his father.

Born into such an athletics-mad family, Shaun was destined to enjoy a life in athletics himself and after competing in the shot put at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and World Championships in Athens in 1997 he went on to win bronze in the shot at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.

Shaun Pickering (Mark Shearman)

With a best of 20.45m in 1997, his shot best still stands as the Welsh record and it places him No.6 on the UK all-time rankings. He was also a fine discus and hammer thrower with bests of 54.38m and 68.64m – the latter being a Welsh record at the time – and impressively won a hat-trick of throws titles at the Welsh Championships a total of three times.

After retiring as an athlete, Pickering was indefatigable when it came to keeping his parents’ legacy alive. Along with his sister, Kim, he worked with missionary zeal to build the profile of the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund, which was set up following his father’s death.

Known as the No.1 athletics charity in Britain, the ‘RPMF’ has given more than £2 million to talented young athletes over the past 32 years mostly in the shape of annual grants. Around two thirds of British athletes in teams for recent major championships have been helped by the charity at some stage and, among other things, it helped Mo Farah buy his first pair of running spikes at a time when…

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